4-H Ontario downsizes office space, introduces permanent remote work model

GUELPH – 4-H Ontario has recently downsized its existing office space, shifting to a permanent remote work model for staff. 

Aug. 24 marked the official first day of 4-H Ontario’s permanent remote working model as it handed over the keys to its office building in Rockwood, detailed a Sept. 1 press release. 

Prior to COVID-19, about one third of the 4-H Ontario staff worked remotely.

“When we surveyed staff about their feelings about remote work, everybody was in support of remaining in a remote work setting,” Christine Oldfield, executive director for 4-H Ontario, explained. 

“I think people find efficiencies and time to save, especially those folks that would have commuted maybe as much as an hour or more every day (now) use that time.”

In discussions with the board, Oldfield said members recognized how quickly the organization was able to convert to having all staff work from home with the pandemic. 

“For having everyone working remotely, we really didn’t lose a step,” Oldfield said. “They had the technology tools in place to communicate with our stakeholders and with other staff members. 

“And we found that we were able to function quite well remotely.” 

Following two years of pandemic lockdowns, the question became about what the value was in having the office. 

“It costs money, obviously, to pay a mortgage, but it also costs money to maintain a building and it takes up time to do things related to repairs, for example,” Oldfield explained. 

“The discussion came about what is the value of that building for us in, kind of the new world that we’re living in,” she added. “And so the decision was made by the board to sell the building.”

The Ontario 4-H council unanimously voted to sell the 4-H Ontario office building at the beginning of 2022. 

The organization has secured a partnership with EastGen in Guelph to rent space in its office to store programming and marketing materials. 

“It was a good arrangement, and they had the available space and had the need,” Oldfield said. 

Selling the building, Oldfield said, both brought in revenue with real estate prices having been at an all-time high, which made the decision a great investment for the organization. 

“So we have that revenue that we can then invest in to support the organization’s long-term sustainability,” she said. 

“And then that’s money that we could use for programming,” Oldfield added. “It just seemed like a better use of resources.”

“4-H Ontario will see significant annual cost savings by renting space in comparison to owning and maintaining an office building,” said Laurie Farquharson, president, Ontario 4-H council, in the Sept. 1 release. 

“The organization can then attribute more funds to youth programming and volunteer support across the province.”

 4-H Ontario’s two main stakeholders, Oldfield explained, are its youth members – which in 2019 they had close to 6,000 – and the organization’s 2,000 volunteers that it supports.

“It’s really through the volunteers that we provide most of our programming,” she said.

“So we’re able to use that savings to support the larger organizational goals.”

The new 4-H Ontario mailing address is 7660 Mill Rd Guelph, N1H 6J1.

While mail will be monitored, the office space will not be regularly staffed and therefore is not open to the public.